People come with the impression that everybody has a choice to do something or not (choices all around everybody), but where in the bible do we as people get the right of choices?

In the Bible I can give a list of commandments and what is expected/what we should do, and if it is done any different it is seen as sin. So where does society come of that we have free of will to make our own decisions as we already were given commandments?

Legally, as God's creation, it could be expected that His created creatures are required to follow His laws. Yet, in Scripture, there are many cases in which the wicked seem to prosper, and people in foreign lands are allowed to worship their own gods without retribution. Why is this the case? What is it in God's nature that affords a tolerance for those who do not keep God's commandments?

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    Welcome to this site! -- There are quite a range of beliefs about 'free will' within Christianity. They range from having a lot of free will, to having almost no free will. You might want to search 'free will' on this site and you will get some of the perspectives. Definitely I think for Protestants, Arminian and Calvinistic views are different. Catholic I think are more 'free will' based, but I am not sure at all. Once you decide the view you are more interested in, you can ask a question based from that camps beliefs. Read FAQ. – Mike Mar 25 '13 at 10:46
  • Sorry, tried to upvote you, but still new here.... – Kerieks Mar 25 '13 at 11:37
  • You can't up-vote a comment, only an answer. What will probably happen is that your question will be closed because it is too general, but don't let that bother you. We all have our questions closed until we figure out how to ask them to fit Q&A format. Cheers. – Mike Mar 25 '13 at 11:58
  • I don't mean to sound harsh with this, or discourage you from participating, but I want to explain my vote to close. The Bible doesn't need to tell us that we have free will. If we were mindless beings that were only supposed to follow Biblical instructions without being able to make choices of our own we'd be in pretty big trouble. The Bible didn't tell me what to have for breakfast this morning, for example. Because this is such an obvious fact I'm voting to close as not a real question. However, if I misunderstood, and you can edit it into something better, I'll vote to reopen. – David Stratton Mar 25 '13 at 12:21
  • @DavidStratton from your comment it looks like your voting to close because you don't like the question because the answer is obvious to you. This has the potential to be a great question with some cleanup. – 2tim424 Mar 25 '13 at 17:27

1. Bilateral Covenants afford rights

After the conquest of Canaan, Joshua has an interesting proposition for the Children of Israel. Reflecting on their tendencies to fall into idolatry and syncretism, he says in Joshua 24:

“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Non-unilateral Covenants - and this was a reiteration of the Covenant - are legal agreements in which each party surrenders certain things to the other in exchange for certain privileges. The 10 Commandments with which you are familiar is such a covenant - often formulated as "You shall be my people, and I shall be your God."

Regardless of whether or not as the Creator God already has a legal right over his people, God chooses to enter into a covenant with His people, thus affording them simple privileges.

2. Love is the desired thing - not obedience

Historically, theologians have attributed this to a problem of power disparity. As God, God has ultimate power to demand reverence and devotion, but in practice, this tends to overwhelm the less powerful party. Instead, God chooses to woo those whom he would have love Him - and requisite to taht would be both free choice and the ability to reject the suitor.

Jesus makes this explict in John 14:15 where he says:

"If you love me, keep my commandments."

As such, God phrases these as choices, in order to get what he wants - which is that sincere faithfulness which only comes from a free exchange.

Indeed, Jesus is often quoted against the Pharisses, but in one of his most damning indictments of disobedience, he tells them:

"Go and learn this saying - I desire mercy and not sacrifice."

Jesus is pointing them back to Hosea, wherein God reveals that his character is to love and to woo, not to overwhelm. In making such a god of the law, the Pharisees have perverted its purpose.

3. Judgement is coming, but love delays it

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares in Matthew 13 is probably the best biblical support for tolerance. In the story, the enemy comes and sows weeds amongst good grain. When the farmhands discover this, they ask the master if they should tear up the weeds. The Master declines, saying:

‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

Note that judgement will come to those who are not following the commandments - but the love that the Master has for his chosen compels him to afford all the opportunity to grow in love. Waiting until their fruits are fully known affords a time for everyone to come to love of the One who came "too seek and save the lost." Affording a chance to repent necessarily means affording a chance not to - thus allowing for some to reject God, but having the choice to do so in the first place.


God frequently offers people choices.

One of the things you should remember is that the Israelites actually all got the choice of whether they wanted to follow God or not. It occurs on several occasions, but you can read about it in most detail at the renewal of the covenant in Joshua Chapter 24. Deuteronomy Chapter 30 and 2 Kings 18 a choice is also offered. John 7 is a New Testament example.

We also all have a choice as to whether we follow the commands of God or not. Simple observation will tell you that some people do not choose to do so. The world would be very different if it were not so.


people in foreign lands are allowed to worship their own gods without retribution. Why is this the case?

Clearly the Ten Commandments, which prohibit worship of other gods, apply to Jews and Christians, but what about people who have their own scriptures, such as Hindus and Buddhists?

The Catholic Church teaches that it speaks for God, so the pronouncements of Vatican II are important for Catholics, if not for other Christians. The following extracts show that, following the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church holds, as a matter of divine revelation, that it is within the teachings of Christ for people to be free to seek religious truth under any suitable means such as by non-Christian worship:

  • The Declaration On The Relation Of The Church To Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate), promulgated in 1965, states, "The Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against men or harassment of them because of their race, color, condition of life, or religion."
  • The Declaration On Religious Freedom (Dignitatis Humanae) states (clause 3): "[E]very man has the duty, and therefore the right, to seek the truth in matters religious in order that he may with prudence form for himself right and true judgments of conscience, under use of all suitable means." Further (clause 9): "this doctrine of freedom has roots in divine revelation, and for this reason Christians are bound to respect it all the more conscientiously."

The Baptist World Congress in 1939 in Atlanta, Georgia issued a Declaration on Religious Liberty which included the statement, “No person…has the right the dictate how another person may worship God or whether that person should worship at all.” Ten years later in Copenhagen the BWA issued a statement “God…calls upon us today…to maintain this God-given freedom not only for ourselves but for all people everywhere.”

These are just two examples in which significant pronouncements have been made, affirming that it is a God-given right to sincerely hold non-Christian beliefs or no religious belief.

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